Film Review: GOD’S OWN COUNTRY (UK 2017) ****

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Trailer

Spring. Yorkshire. Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.

Director:

Francis Lee

Writer:

Francis Lee

2017 sees the arrival of three critically acclaimed gay films .  BPM from France, this one from the U.K. (at point of writing with a 99% rotten tomatoes rating) about a young Yorkshire sheep farmer and from Italy, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.  While the latter also deals with first love, unlike that sugar-covered unreal gay love story, GOD’S OWN COUNTRY is a hard look at gay life – acceptance and reality, the way it happens in real life.

The film is set in Yorkshire, around Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) who lives on the family farm with his father, Martin (Ian Hart) and grandmother, Deirdre (Gemma Jones).  Due to his father having suffered from a stroke, and his grandmother’s age, much of the day to day running of the farm falls to Johnny.   As his friends have left for university, there is little time for socializing.  What time there is, he fills drinking excessively on his own at the pub. With the lambing season fast approaching, Johnny’s father tells him that they have advertised for extra help for the farm that arrives in the form of a Romanian worker, Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu).  When the two are sent out into an isolated place to look after the sheep (shades of Ang Lee’s BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN), the two form a relationship after some initial rough sex and hostility.

When the two return to the farm, both Derdre and Martin discover what the two have been unto resulting in Gheorghe leaving the farm.  Whether Johnny will make a stand and go out to get him back takes up the rest of the film.

What makes the film work for both the gay and hetro-sexual audiences is the honesty of the portrayal of the couple’s love.  The film also serves as a coming-of-age rite of passage journey for Johnny who before just engages in casual encounters.  This is aided by the film’s sheep farming setting, which unlike many pictures with a farm setting, just cater to one or token farm scenes.  In GOD’S OWN COUNTRY, the sheep, landscape, Yorkshire scenery and farming are in the forefront.  There are many eye-opening facts that can be learnt about sheep farming from the film like a lamb dying from a breech birth. 

The rough macho life of men are on display – as in the rough sex practised by Johnny.  Sexual gratification can be obtained without the fuss of a second hook-up or a budding relationship.  The land is just as rough, but tenderness is also present, as witnessed by Gheorghe as he takes care of a weak lamb that almost dies.

The film contains one perfect scene somewhere in the middle when Johnny and Ghoerghe sit together overlooking the beautiful yet somewhat barren Yorkshire landscape.  It is a rare moment, a turning point in the life of both, when the two lovers appreciate the beauty of GOD’S OWN COUNTRY and nothing else in the world but that and their love matters.

GOD’S OWN COUNTRY is in many ways just as perfect a gay love story.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1YAhyU6-tA&vl=en

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1997 Movie Review: WILDE, 1997 – Starring: Stephen Fry, Jude Law

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WILDEWILDE, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Brian Gilbert

Cast: Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Sheen, Tom Wilkinson, Gemma Jones, Jennifer Ehle, Judy Parfit
Review by Stefan Leverton

SYNOPSIS:

The story of Oscar Wilde, genius, poet, playwright and the First Modern Man. The self-realisation of his homosexuality caused Wilde enormous torment as he juggled marriage, fatherhood and responsibility with his obsessive love for Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. After legal action instigated by Bosie’s father, the mad Marquess of Queensberry, Wilde refused to flee the country and was sentenced to two years at hard labour by the courts of an intolerant Victorian society.

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REVIEW:

Wilde is the biopic telling the infamous story of Oscar Wilde, one of Ireland’s and the Victorian era’s greatest playwright and poet. Above that he represented the rise in the appreciation for all things aesthetic, fashion and style as well as being one of the wittiest historical figures that I can think of. His life wasn’t all plaudits though, and he courted controversy to the full.

The film begins with Wilde returning from America, marrying Constance Wilde and having two boys, Cyril and Vyvyan. Then it begins, not wanting to over-state anything, his rise and fall. Taking the theatre world by storm, Wilde’s plays illuminate the west end and he becomes the toast of the town. With an invigorated zeal for socialising, Wilde acquaints himself with all the lavishness his success affords him.

This ignites a spark within Wilde, especially after becoming familiar with Robbie Ross. After their meeting Wilde’s ‘outs’ himself amongst the homosexual community, and in doing so becomes the person he may’ve always known he was. Then the shift moves from his work to his personal life. An intense affair rises between Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. Bosie is drawn to the artful and wise Wilde, while Wilde is drawn to the youthful pretty Bosie.

Their relationship has its ups and downs, mainly due to Bosie’s impetuousness, but ultimately has its dramatic anchor in the film as in Wilde’s life by being the scandal that brought shame upon Wilde’s family and indeed his professional reputation. Bosie’s father, the Mad Marquess of Queensberry, files a lawsuit against Wilde and his lewd illegal behaviour.

The ensuing court case, is widely publicised and the witch hunt that surrounds it sees the steadfast Wilde prosecuted for his actions and sentenced to four years hard labour after refusing to take exile. Then we witness Wilde’s decline, removed of his style in gaol. Even on his release when he takes refuge in Europe his healthy withers and Wilde dies resolute but very much alone in Paris, 1900.

As a fan of Wilde’s work, I feel this film does tremendous justice to the man, played with sheer perfection by Stephen Fry. Fry said of the role that it was the one he was born to play, and he is in no way over stating that fact. And the filmmakers have done a wonderful job of adding to the creation by giving Fry just the right appearance as a young-twenty-something but also as the broken-aged-man Wilde becomes during his incarceration. And special mention should go to Jude law who, aside from looking good in the role, acts as a great folly to Wilde, being that they are at different stages of their lives.

The only criticism of the film is that those who aren’t familiar with Wilde may struggle to be enraptured by the drama of the film which never really peaks. I think that to be slightly mis-guided as Wilde himself fully understood what was going on, there was no outrage from him, though he did stand resolutely and argued his case to spite all that, though sadly without success. What stands is the memory of such outrageous persecution from the justice system and society to persecute someone, when today that wouldn’t even enter the consciousness.

WILDE, 1997

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